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Grail Touts Its Blood Test for Detecting Cancer Early: Brainstorm Health

May 31, 2019, 9:34 PM UTC

Happy Friday, readers!

Another year, another meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). ASCO’s yearly event draws more than 30,000 investors, executives, scientists, academics, and patient advocates in the cancer drug development space every year. Simply put, it’s the world’s biggest cancer conference.

ASCO 2019 officially took off in Chicago on Friday (this beast lasts till June 4) and, while some analysts are predicting a more low-key convention, at least one company is already making some news: Grail, a mega-funded startup that’s trying to create blood tests for early cancer detection.

Grail has already raised some $1.6 billion in venture capital funding and is touting early (an emphasis on early) results suggesting that its technology can sniff out a multitude of cancers without the need for an invasive tissue biopsy and, more importantly, with a low rate of false positives relative to existing procedures.

But it’s important to note that this is a pilot study and will need rigorous verification in larger trials. Over-diagnosis and over-treatment can prove extremely harmful – not everyone needs treatment that could diminish their quality of life. Still, Grail’s suggestion that its diagnostic can both identify where cancers exist in the body and how deadly they are is a tantalizing one. Much more news out of ASCO in the coming week.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.

Sy Mukherjee


Robots need a human touch. The Economist has an absolutely fascinating read on the ways in which a better, ahem, grasp of human hands and touch can enhance robotic arms' ability to manipulate objects. A team of scientists led by Subramanian Sundaram has designed a method to capture some of this sensitivity via a sensory sleeve that trial participants can wear to pick up on these "softer" touches. (Economist)


Chinese conglomerate Fosun scales back U.S. footprint. Trade wars, it turns out, can have consequences (or at the very least elicit threats). Chinese conglomerate Fosun has partnered with numerous U.S. biopharmaceutical firms but now plans on pumping the brakes, at least for the short-term, to shift focus to emerging markets. (Bloomberg)


FDA may ramp up CBD oil regulation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may soon take a more restrictive approach to cannabis-derived CBD products now commonly sold in retail and corner stores. The products' rapid explosion has raised questions about safety and inflated claims, prompting an upcoming (and inaugural) hearing on the issue. (NBC News)

Measles cases reach 25-year record high. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the measles outbreak has now officially led to a 25-year high in cases of the infectious disease. There are now 550 confirmed measles cases in New York City alone. The outbreak has been fueled by communities averse to vaccination for religious and personal reasons. (NPR)


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee
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